Robert Capa: The Man Who Believed His Own Legend (2004)

TV Movie   |    |  Documentary

Robert Capa has been the icon of a whole generation of photo journalists and embodies the very spirit of adventure: a romantic hero, a legendary photographer with a tragic end. Yet, very ... See full summary »


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Patrick Jeudy


Gérard Miller

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1 October 2006 | ville-5
F for Fake
This documentary tries its best to discredit Robert Capa, who was maybe the most important wartime photographer ever.

His famous photo about a mortally wounded soldier in the Spanish civil war is claimed to be a fake. The documentary shows us a very similar photo with just a different man dying. Without ANY expert opinions from researchers or anyone else this is just innuendo. Was it really a fake? Did Capa or someone else re-create the shot? I don't know. The documentary throws questions in the air without really even trying to answer them.

In the start the narrator tells us that Magnum Photos - the photo agency Capa established and which owns the copyrights to his photos - declined to help in the making of this program, probably because of the negative (pun unintentional) portrayal. The narrator also tells that Magnum scared all the other interviewees away from this project - WHAT A JOKE! Magnum has a very creditable status and a large photo archive but this is not a Scientology organization that resorts to scare tactics! The interviewees are limited to John G. Morris - a friend and colleague of Capa who doesn't give a very insightful commentary - his part is to just identify Capa from old pictures or some (admittedly interesting) archive reels.

I happened to watch this documentary straight after a more thorough glimpse of Capa's life in "Robert Capa: In Love and War" which portrays Capa in a completely different view and gives a great perspective to compare both. While neither is a complete biography nor even tries to be such, this French documentary makes me appreciate the aforementioned US documentary even more in how it lets the Capa's old friends and work mates to tell their stories whereas this one relies almost completely on a narrative. One WW2 veteran told an especially memorable story how in a middle of a heated battle in 1944 in France he met Capa who calmly smoked a cigarette and discussed about Tolstoy's literature, and how he never again met Capa.

There are of course some points in both documentaries that tell the same parts in completely different light. I'm talking 180 degrees here...

For example there is a shot of Capa taking a bath. The US documentary has one of his friends tell us that he came in Capa's apartment to ask for work in Magnum and took the picture. The narrator in this documentary talks how "it took several hours for Capa to get into his role as Robert Capa in the morning" while showing the same picture in the background.

Another thing is Capa's death in a Vietnam. The French documentary claims that Capa was a depressive little man with a deathwish and stepping to a mine that killed him was a logical end to his life. The US documentary tells that he was just marching along with US troops and unfortunately happened to step to a land mine.

The points I give are for some interesting archive reel shorts that were not on the better documentary. This documentary could be of interest to those who want to analyze faux documentaries.

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Release Date:

5 December 2004



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